By Ricki Allan , Otago Daily Times | Posted: Monday August 22, 2016
The Otago Whalers kicked off their 2016 campaign with a resounding 36-10 victory over the West Coast Chargers at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.
The South Island Premier League game was hotly contested from the outset.
The Whalers opened strongly, putting the Chargers under immense pressure with several attacking sets, pinning them to their own tryline.
Eventually, the West Coast folded under the pressure and was not able to scramble its defence out wide quickly enough to stop Tama Apineru from finding his way to the line for the first try of the match.
The Whalers kept the momentum going, using their strong runners, Sam Brame and Mannassah Kutia, to roll through the middle of the field.
Once they were on the front foot they were able to spread the ball to the backs, who showed their skills by constantly evading the West Coast defenders.
Jordan Ruatoe was the next player to score a try for the Whalers, on the end of a good spread play from playmaker Vila Apuula. Ruatoe flirted with the sideline before pulling off a stunning full-stretch dive to get the ball down as the Chargers defenders tried to put him out of play.
The Whalers had a 14-0 lead at halftime but it was the West Coast which fired the first shots in the second half, seizing an opportunity when a kick-off bounced into touch to give it an attacking set on the Whalers line.
The Chargers sent the defence scrambling on the back of some strong running before finding a gap and crossing over.
The Whalers remained composed and put the pressure back on the Coast when Ruatoe crossed again.
The Chargers were desperate to keep their hopes of winning the match alive and found their way to the tryline, narrowing the gap between the sides with the scoreline now reading 18-10 in the Whalers’ favour.
However, that was the last time they were to add to their tally.
Ruatoe scored a 90m try from a wayward kick to secure a hat-trick, and Manassah Kutia, and Tama Apineru added tries to extend the lead to 36-10 before the final whistle blew.
Coach Ray Fitiao commended the efforts of his players.
There were "lots of good performances and probably a great team performance from 1-17, which pleased me the most," he said.
The Whalers head to the Gore Showgrounds next weekend to play Southland, which won its opening match 38-26 against Tasman in Invercargill.